D. A. S. Suite (2013)
For high school string orchestra
Commissioned by the Lake Forest High School Orchestra, Robert Bassill, director and generously funded by the Applause Organization
Premiered in March of 2013, with the Lake Forest High School Orchestra, Deanna Stephenson – violin soloist, Robert Bassill – conductor
I’ve always wanted to write a work involving my children in one way or another. When the opportunity arose to compose a new work for the Lake Forest High School strings for their upcoming European tour, I was more than excited at the idea. Being our hometown high school, where my oldest daughter was a sophomore, this provided the perfect scenario for dad to embarrass his daughter!! (Fellow parents will understand). I wanted to write a work that was both attractive for their “young ears”, but also somewhat educational as a tool to introduce them to some of the possibilities that lie within the contemporary musical scope.
The first movement is very innocuous and tuneful, though in a harmonic language meant to be a little less predictable than students might expect.
The opening rhythmic motif was inspired by (i.e. stolen from) my daughter, Deanna, as she walked around the house improvising a little riff on her violin. This was all I needed, and the entire movement comes from that little figure.
Upon embarking on the second movement, I hearkened back to the compositions of Vivaldi – not in any way in terms of sound – but in form. It occurred to me that he often wrote concertos for young students, probably at an age similar to those for whom I was writing. Oftentimes, his second movements were nothing more than a short interlude between up-tempo outer movements. I decided to do the same, but to include some very stark dynamic contrast, and some non-measured sound-scape material as an introduction to some of what contemporary music can entail.
The third movement opens with a violin solo – again a tribute to my daughter. The opening figure also spells out her initials – D.A.S. (when using the German notation, “S” often is represented by Eb, or Es.)
Incidentally, the German title, and any other references, are not accidental, as I wanted to pay tribute to their tour stop inVienna (where it so happens that my sister and family live as well).The movement also includes some more contemporary harmonies, and one bit of extended technique – knocking on the bodies of the instruments. Lastly, as a tribute to the school, the basses play a variant (i.e. not obvious) of the school fight song about halfway through. Snippets of the original “stolen riff” and other melodies re-appear, and the movement ends in exciting fashion.
I am very grateful to Robert Bassill, director of the school orchestra, for giving me this opportunity, and also to the Applause members for supporting the creation of this new work.And, of course, to my daughter, who is a constant source of inspiration in more ways than just through music!
Jim Stephenson January 7, 2013